A lot goes into preparing to compete in a billfish tournament. As we write this very column, many participants in the South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series are busy preparing for the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.
After that, some of those boats will return home to South Carolina to compete in the first tournament of the 2020 Series, the Carolina Billfish Classic.
By publication of this column, winners of both of those elite events will have been crowned, and South Carolina’s billfishing fleet will begin preparing for the Bohicket Marina Invitational Billfish Tournament and the Annual Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament.
Prepping for such competitions requires considerable forethought, organization, and work.
Let’s take a look at some key strategies used by teams that compete to win. While the following list is not a comprehensive look at tournament prep, it points to some traditional ways top boats better their shot at a big check.
• It’s important that any team competing in a billfish tournament check to make sure they have all the required paperwork and documentation, including the necessary licenses and permits.
• Note: folks fishing any of the South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series tournaments can get details about such requirements by visiting one of the recent newsletters on the Gov Cup’s website: http://govcup.dnr.sc.gov/Newsletter/t_and_r_v25n1.pdf
• Fresh tackle is key when competing in billfish tournaments, increasing a team’s chances of hooking a big fish without tackle related failures.
» Crank new line on all reels
» Ensure you have plenty of hook rigs (circle hook leaders) and crank-ons (wind on leaders)
» Use new dredge bars
• Teams that regularly compete in billfish tournaments know that the right bait can make all of the difference, especially when targeting certain species.
» Have plenty of bait
» When assessing how much bait is needed, mates and captains consider how fishing has been and how voracious the mahi have been.
» Consider what you’re targeting
» Use lures and bigger baits for blue marlin
» Use smaller baits for sailfish and white marlin
» Use a combination if targeting multiple species during an event
• While it may seem frivolous to some, it’s important to provision the boat with food and drinks.
• Every team has a preference, but many seem to rely on pre-made meals, so grabbing food is quick and easy while lines are in the water. Chick-fil-A and sub sandwiches continue to battle for the stomachs of top sportfishing teams along the East coast.
• Competitive teams assign roles so that every person on the boat knows what they’re responsible for during the tournament. These specific assignments matter.
» Teaser Man
» Pitch Guy
» Dredge Man
• Competitive teams know that putting your best foot forward is important when fishing against other top-level sportfishing crews, so ensuring the boat is immaculate both inside and out goes a long way in billfish tournaments.
There are countless other ways mates and captains prepare for billfish tournaments, including scheduling practice fishing trips, readying camera gear, and studying currents.
While these events are fun ways for families and friends to spend time on the water, competitors take this sport very seriously. Big money is up for grabs and folks want their share of the cash and the bragging rights.
Be sure to follow the South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series on social media or visit govcup.dnr.sc.gov for the most up-to-date information on the 2020 season.
– Cameron Rhodes, is the social media coordinator and photographer for the South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series and is a proud member of Charleston’s billfishing community.
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